by Mateja Mihinjac
In the previous blog, I presented the extent of vacant storefronts. This blog looks at how they impact crime and fear, and proposes some possible measures that could be implemented to tackle the problem.
Vacant storefronts may impact safety and perception of safety in two major ways. First, vacancies signify lack of ownership over the stores, especially if defaced, and can become crime generators or areas that trigger undesirable street behaviours.
This can be especially problematic if the number of vacancies within a defined area reaches its tipping point and becomes blighted, the concept from the Second Generation CPTED.
Second, decreased street usage from vacant storefronts impacts perceptions of safety. Street users are strongly influenced by others around them that they perceive as non-threatening. This is why streets that focus on pedestrians and entice them with active storefronts and street vendors increase street activity and make the users feel safer.
Thus, if parts of the city communicate isolation or activities by undesirable groups, they will cease to be a place the general population visits, or visits only for a limited time.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
There are three main categories of possible responses: urban planning; economic development; rent and regulations.
LAND USE PLANNING
COMMERCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
RENT AND REGULATIONS
Any initiatives targeted at boosting business and providing incentives for business owners and shoppers are futile if safety concerns are not addressed.
I disagree with the perspective that urban regeneration should start only when crime drops. Waiting for problems to arise only perpetuates the vicious cycle of crime while citizens stay away from downtown areas. When that occurs, shop owners are left with few options except to purchase expensive and obstructive security measures. This is why safety is an integral part of successful and liveable neighborhoods.
Despite claims to the contrary, reclaiming livability from neighborhoods with entrenched crime and blight is much more difficult and costly than preventing it in the first place. Integrating land uses, zoning, economic activity, regulations and rents, in collaboration with local stakeholders, is the key to livable active streets and what we now call Third Generation CPTED.
by Mateja Mihinjac
Local shops and offices that occupy storefronts of downtown and suburban streets inject life into those places. Without them, these areas would not attract local residents or visitors and that would leave downtown areas barren and vulnerable to crime. Vacant storefronts communicate messages to passers-by such as an economic downturn, unsafe conditions, or a lack of care. These were some of the responses shared by the participants in a field study I conducted last year.
THE EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM
While an increase in storefront vacancies appears almost universal across western countries, the extent of the problem varies between countries, cities and even within the neighborhoods:
Some cities, such as Melbourne, have experienced reductions in their downtown vacant rates but have observed more issues with suburban areas. A scan across 11 suburban retail strips uncovered a vacancy rate of 8.4% with the highest at nearly 17%.
Given a commonly cited 5% “acceptable” vacancy rate, it is not surprising that vacant shopping corridors are a growing worry of commercial experts, CPTED practitioners, and criminologists who study such matters.
REASONS BEHIND VACANCIES
Vacancies are not uniformly distributed across cities and suburbs for a number of reasons. Some include:
Other possible reasons for vacancies include rezoning, gentrification and shifting consumer preferences. Ultimately, vacant storefronts not only influence the economy, but they influence safety and social life. In short, when vacancies arise, conditions also arise for street crime and worsening fear.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
In our Third Generation CPTED article last year, we pinpoint the importance of social, economic, and environmental sustainability as protective factors against neighbourhood decline. Active local shops and robust local economies are paramount for a decent quality of life. This is a core principle of our vision of liveable 21st Century cities.
The next blog will explore how vacant storefronts impact crime and possible solutions for addressing them.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
We have written a number of blogs about activating public space with public art. From music festivals to large murals, neighbourhoods around the world bring people together to observe and interact around art. However, in Brisbane this year, art was mixed with science.
Last month, the city of Brisbane was celebrating all things science in the public sphere. Brisbane had a massive science festival. This included exhibits at the Queensland science museum, an outdoor festival, and perhaps the most engaging: technology-inspired art exhibits around the city. These exhibits, called Curiocity, married together art and science into an interactive and beautiful combination for local residents and tourists alike. The exhibits were placed along the Brisbane river and free for everyone, making them easily accessible and activating these spaces 24 hours day.
Artists, scientists and technicians combine experience in robotics, music, art and technology to create these interactive experiences. The exhibits included “Sky Brisbane” an air-jet activated grid of colourful fabric plumes that move based on the movement of the observer and “Scatter” solar-powered spinning loud speakers that scatter sound as the listener moves throughout the exhibit. These exhibits could be further engaged with through a phone app that was accessed through a scannable bar code at each installation.
These kinds of exhibits are not new but definitely are growing in popularity and size. For example, in North Vancouver Canada, Capilano suspension bridge puts on a beautiful holiday light show at the end of each year. Last year they included an interactive light display that turned on and changed colour based on the noise made. Passers-by engaged in clapping, stomping and cheering to see what kinds of colour combinations they could make.
ENCOURAGING CURIOSITY IN SCIENCE
While we often talk about how public art can bring people out and activate space, this combination of technology and art could offer not only further public engagement, but also celebrate and expand science in the public forum. Science festivals that include these kinds of exhibits can encourage curiosity and celebrate the advancement of knowledge, while remaining accessible and enjoyable.
In a time when science and evidence is being replaced by personal opinion and fake news, perhaps the celebration of science in the public realm will not only bring folks out and activate public space but will also encourage thoughtful conversation and curiosity about knowledge and inquiry.
by Mateja Mihinjac
Vacant land is concerning because it attracts vandalism, provides refuge for drug activity and squatting, and attracts other undesirable behavior. In SafeGrowth we often find vacant lots and empty properties are associated with crime and disorder.
Fortunately, there are ways to transform these liabilities into assets. In our work, we encourage communities to activate vacant land in order to prevent a downward spiral of neighborhood disorder emerging from empty properties. This form of activation is also known as meanwhile spaces.
THE PROBLEM - VACANT LAND
Land vacancy is a prevalent issue especially in formerly highly industrialized cities across North America that are dealing with the consequences of economic downturn. Some of these cities suffer from hypervacancy where 25-50% of properties per census tract have been neglected.
We know from 1st Generation CPTED that this is due to poor territoriality or ownership resulting in decreased quality of life. We know from 2nd Generation CPTED that different neighborhoods have different thresholds for tolerating social destabilators (like vacant land), before they tip into social disorder. A timely response to vacancies can halt the slide into disorder.
Some cities have successfully rebuilt former factory buildings into housing. Others, as I've written in prior blogs, transform vacant lots into community gardens and community gathering places. And yet there are many cities that still struggle with vacant land and the consequences of poor upkeep, disorderly conduct, and crime.
Cities across North America and Europe are increasingly activating vacant land – a phenomena sometimes called meanwhile spaces – and temporarily using it to boost the local economy, provide jobs, advocate for social justice, and attract prosocial activities. These include pop-up markets and shops, placemaking, festivals, food trucks, art installations, programs by non-profits and civic collectives, and other activities that benefit the local community.
Meanwhile spaces are a form of tactical urbanism allowing local participation, and they also help developers see what people want in a particular space.
In Paris, one place was transformed into a temporary marketplace with diverse, small enterprises. It gave community groups and startups use of a rent-free space rent free until 2020 when the developer intends to commence with the construction.
Another example, from a prior blog, was SafeGrowth advocate Brad Vassallo's description of the pop-up market-place in Philadelphia, a city suffering over 40,000 vacant lots.
In Christchurch, New Zealand, an entire downtown commercial area, destroyed following a devastating earthquake, was transformed into a beautiful shipping-container shopping district. It was a temporary solution that now has wide acceptance and popular appeal (and may become a permanent feature of the city).
There are many low-cost and low-risk ways that meanwhile spaces can respond to the needs of residents and their neighborhoods. Creative design strategies can adapt quickly to changing conditions, such as layering multiple activities into one space, thereby injecting life and vibrancy into the local community.
Meanwhile spaces strengthen local relationships, build resilience and provide ownership to spaces that could otherwise attract undesirable activity. They may also signify a shift in modern city planning toward temporary and more responsive use of space.
However, what resonates most with me as a criminologist is the importance of a dedicated local community for transforming vacant spaces from liabilities into assets, thus preventing crime and disorder.
By Mateja Mihinjac
Last week I outlined why the problem of vehicular attacks on pedestrians demands thinking beyond target hardening. These incidents cannot be simply eradicated through design, but some of the alternatives below offer possibilities for reducing negative social impacts that accompany hyper-security.
One way to avoid perpetuating fear and altering aesthetics of public spaces is to transform overt, obtrusive security to less visible (or invisible) security. Instead of fortressing our cities and increasing mass surveillance, target hardening practices can be integrated into the environment (e.g. street furniture, layout, paving styles, use of special materials).
Multiple cases of concrete bollards painted by local artists and activists show that citizens care about the appearance of their public spaces and the message they convey to their users. Other less obtrusive strategies include natural barriers such as rain gardens, ponds, bridges and Ha-Ha walls.
Successful experiments have also demonstrated how altering pedestrian movement through playful and non-obtrusive designs such as floor markings and mirrors prompts people to use a designated safe route and foster their connection to both place and their users.
Congruent with the smart city movement, new invisible technical solutions are also possible. Sweden is now testing geo-fencing on a large scale before the country may be the first to implement this approach in a fight against heavy vehicles attacks. In the U.S., architects are designing safer schools.
Another popular option includes altering zoning practices in city centers such as special downtown zones that limit vehicle use to light-weight and slow-speed vehicles or pedestrian-only areas. Such zones have a life of their own. They provide opportunities for people to explore and enjoy them. Concurrently they help reclaim public space through reprogramming a restricted area into a positive land use. They also demand improved pedestrian infrastructure and street networks that support easy and safe movement.
The ideas about walkable and human scale design have culminated in practices such as the Barnes dance intersections. The World Resources Institute also provides a detailed overview of measures that prioritize a safe and human scale transport design.
Security professionals, designers and planners can balance security and socially-appropriate measures by providing safety and support connections as well as interactions between people. Obtrusive security measures divide and create barriers between people. There are better alternatives.
by Greg Saville
Years ago I spent an afternoon with the exceptional urban designer Richard Gardiner. Anyone reading encylclopedia references about the beginning of CPTED will recognize Richard Gardiner’s name, especially his 1978 book Design for Safe Neighborhoods, the first attempt to transform CPTED into a comprehensive planning system.
In our chats, Richard described how he had moved away from CPTED and began focusing on the serious congestion problem of street parking. He had developed an ingenious parking management program to tackle the assumption that “free parking is actually costing governments and institutions millions of dollars each year without their actually being aware of it. Public parking in cities constitutes the third-highest hidden cost that U.S. cities face each year.”
I'm embarrassed to admit I just didn't get it. Urban land economics wasn't my thing back then; it seemed unimportant. But in the years since then, I came to see the huge impact on both safety and urban finance. This was especially the case when I observed the Portland Intersection Repair program where residents reclaimed their neighborhood by reclaiming their local intersection.
PARKING SPACES FOR LEASE
Lately, I’ve seen a fascinating variation on this theme: Municipalities that lease the street parking areas in front of restaurants and bars. The bars turn this area into outside sitting areas, eating areas or other uses for their patrons.
Does this help make sidewalks and streets safer by putting more eyes on those streets? Does it make those streets less safe at night if those same bars have poor management and thereby trigger drunken street brawls and drunk driving?
Obviously, funds from leased parking spaces will feed city coffers and that might help recover the hidden costs of free parking (or with few meters, minimally costed parking). Those funds might help cash starved municipalities reinvest into their cities.
But what, I wonder, does this mean for other types of transportation, such as bicycle riders who still have inadequate and safe parking spots for their bikes?
by Greg Saville
In the early years of CPTED, the skateboarder was the defiler of the public order and vandal of the public realm. Still today uncontrolled skateboarding causes damage to places. CPTED training taught how to target harden benches and use sand to disrupt wheel bearings. New anti-skateboarding laws and enforcement emerged.
Today the skateboard movement has gone legit. It's worth 4 billion dollars and has over 11 million participants. In 2020 it will be an Olympic sport. Skateboard parks populate every major city.
Skateboarding has come of age.
The same evolution is underway with graffiti and street art, the former defined as illegal, the latter not (both distinctions now fading into the Realpolitik).
We have written about murals and graffiti for years. SafeGrowth Advocate Anna Brassard wrote a few years ago about the graffiti/street artist world in her blog The Writing on the Wall. I wrote about a Graff War in Melbourne.
Today, as with skateboarding, change is underway. There are lists of World's Top Cities for murals. Penang in Malaysia is the leader. No surprise Berlin, Germany and Sydney, Australia are also leaders. Philadelphia and Melbourne aren’t (but should be). Krakow, Poland, Reykjavik, Iceland and Quebec City, Canada make the top ten.
I captured some street art and mural images in Toronto and Denver the past few weeks. I’m told by graff artists that the illegal practicing they do helps them refine their skills and produce these amazing legal works.
Perhaps if we can find a public practice place for street artists and legitimate display walls for their better work, we could minimize the illegal graffiti vandalism. Working with street artists, as these images show, can produce remarkable results.
Traveling across the country in recent weeks I enjoyed street musicians from one coast to the other. They came in the form of brass jazz bands in New Orleans to piano players on the Venice Beach Boardwalk in Los Angeles.
Every urban center in the world features street musicians - also called buskers - those performers who provide entertainment for handouts. In France, they are Troubadours and in Mexico Mariachi bands wander the streets and beaches.
Buskers have been part of city life for centuries, probably dating back to antiquity. England’s Henry VIII first licensed them as minstrels. And among their numbers, you can count Benjamin Franklin, Josephine Baker, Tracy Chapman, Rod Stewart and Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque du Soleil.
Many cities license buskers, such as Toronto and London where they must audition to play on subway platforms. Most cities regulate them to ensure they are not a nuisance or hazard.
From a street safety point of view, they offer the opportunity to bring some legitimate eyes onto isolated areas and activate dull spaces with interesting life. A few years ago Steve Woolrich blogged here about the successful Red Deer, Alberta street piano.
Little attention is paid to busking in the crime prevention literature. But our experience suggests that properly applied to key areas, street musicians can activate public places and make them safer. If anything it is usually the buskers who are victims of theft, not the other way around.
ENTER THE IPNAS
My concern in recent years has been the over-regulation of buskers like street musicians, especially considering the UK’s newest law, the Anti-Social Behavior Crime and Policing Bill.
Under the oddball acronym IPNAS - Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance - the new law heaps a cornucopia of rules on everything from irresponsible dog ownership to border security and terrorism. And like all omnibus bills, they are a Genie out of the bottle once they get into the hands of local authorities with bizarre predispositions (aka Ferguson).
I understand attempts to cast a wide net of hyper-regulation over the streets of UK cities, especially when threatened by street thugs, drunks, and hooligans.
But for every action, there is a reaction. This action could also limit the ability to activate streets with human entertainment and instead replace it with cold, mechanical CCTV eyes with the promise of a safe viewshed on downtown streets, a strategy with mixed empirical results in the UK and even more questions in the US.
Then I found a review of the IPNAS laws in The Guardian. It brought to mind the stories of some of our greatest cultural contributors, Benjamin Franklin, Rod Stewart, Tracey Chapman and Guy Laliberte:
These laws will be used to stamp out plurality and difference, to douse the exuberance of youth, to pursue children for the crime of being young and together in a public place, to help turn this nation into a money-making monoculture, controlled, homogenised, lifeless, strifeless and bland. For a government which represents the old and the rich, that must sound like paradise.
A recent walk in some urban laneways brought to mind mystery stories of Sherlock Holmes’ chasing murderers lurking in dark, foggy alleys.
In real life, laneways are a hidden and complex urban landscape we seldom consider in our formulations for safer cites. We write about them in our stories, but not until the New Urbanists reintroduced them as a modern feature of their residential street design did we refocus on them as a crime location.
Most experienced beat cops walk downtown laneways, especially at night, because that is where things happen. Burglars frequent them because they offer easy access to the rears of homes. And kids vandalize and steal from cars in them because laneways are traditionally hidden from view.
As I compared some lively laneway designs with others that were not (the top photo), it was obvious poor laneway design is not inevitable. Laneway research is emerging revealing other options. I have posted blogs on laneway life, laneway chic, and permeable fine grain design.
One Australian study on laneway crime suggests designers pay more attention to width/length, visibility from the ends, and the number of residences.
But our work in SafeGrowth, and my recent walks, suggests something different: laneway activation is much more than physical size and shape. It is also about creatively figuring how to retain car parking and trash disposal uses, while at the same time creating interesting places for socializing.
That might sound unappealing at first. Yet the cool laneway in these photos features streetscaping, decorative lighting, a community garden at the end, and rear door porches to encourage laneway socializing. If designers provide an interesting option that residents need, they will use it and also keep it safe.
Today is America's Independence Day - the time for celebrating a government by and for the people. Local governance seems a long way off this election season. So for solace, I turn to local governance on the street in the form of placemaking.
There are plenty of amazing street designs, laneway experiments, and examples of tactical urbanism that enliven and activate the street. The more people who walk and enjoy what Jane Jacobs called the street ballet the easier it is to humanize our neighborhoods and reduce fear and crime. This is the magic that is placemaking.
But did you ever notice how some versions of placemaking seem too expensive for the average person? Who has the time or money to redesign a laneway or install fancy lights, landscaping and pavement treatments?
LOOK TO THE LOCALS
An answer surfaced on recent trips to Toronto and Colorado Springs. The former took form in a small corner convenience store in a Toronto residential neighborhood.
After suffering a burglary last fall and installing window bars, the owner decided to explore some inventive placemaking of her own. She transformed the front and side of her shop into a mini-market and outdoor gathering place.
Inside the store she brings in local artists and artisans with samples of their work. With a vested interest in seeing their own work, and the chance to visit with others, locals and families frequent the corner store and create their own neighborhood nexus with very little cost to the storeowner.
Another answer appeared along a downtown laneway in Colorado Springs. In this case locals used color and paint to enliven an otherwise dead space.
Rather than an alley with dead spaces, poor lighting and droll walls, these shopowners painted walls, installed local art, and used overhead colored LED lights to bring some energy to the space. When a few people located their shops along the alley, the space turned into a social gathering place.
It really is not difficult to trust locals and work with them in coming up with ways to turn spaces into places. Jacobs said it 50 years ago: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because and when, they are created by everybody.”
Just as I was writing about homelessness and walkable public spaces I received a Vimeo from SafeGrowth friend Sue Ramsay in New Zealand. It is a 4 minute video uncovering simple urban design and social programming features that make a public space fantastic.
It is all based on William H. Whyte’s 1980 book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, and to a lesser extent his follow-up book, City: Rediscovering The Center.
Whyte was born 100 years ago and he became mentor to Jane Jacobs and inspiration for the New York place-making group Project for Public Spaces.
For CPTED practitioners, William H. Whyte is among the bright lights in the history of urban design. He invented the idea of urban carrying capacity - later called tipping points - used throughout 2nd Generation CPTED. Like any student of urban affairs and planning he loved cities. He envisioned the return of the Agora to the modern city and, best of all, showed us how to get there.
His ideas for reclaiming civilized, walkable, and fun urban places are simple, obvious and oddly ignored in too many cities. Here are a few that show up in the video:
Thanks to Sue for reminding us about one of our pioneers.
GUEST BLOG: Tarah Hodgkinson is a senior researcher in the Integrated Risk Assessment Instrument Research Group in Vancouver, Canada. She is a member of the International CPTED Association and a certified SafeGrowth instructor. She is completing Ph.D in criminology at Simon Fraser University.
On a recent trip to New Jersey, I had the opportunity to discuss the CPTED concept called activity generators with a local community group. I was reminded of the distinct differences between day time and night time economies. Activity generators (ways of activating spaces for legitimate or positive uses that put eyes on the street) are easy to support during the day time. Examples include food trucks, scheduling outdoor sports games and encouraging community fairs. However, I struggled to think of examples of night time activity generators until I went walking around in the city at night.
Hoboken night time economy
After dinner with friends in Hoboken, we headed back to the train station. Hoboken has a beautiful main street that was bustling. When I think of activity generators for night time, I often think of bars or pubs that might attract people, but not always with positive results. While Hoboken had a few pubs, it also had outdoor fruit markets and late night coffee shops. Legitimately activating their main street, Hoboken businesses encouraged non-drinkers to use the space as well.
The following night another friend took us to the New York High Line. As mentioned in The future of sidewalks, the highline is a well-lit, pedestrian friendly public space that encourages legitimate day and night activity. Through proper lighting, lots of seating, close proximity to homes and shops and incredible design, the High Line draws both tourists and residents alike.
Winter evenings in Vancouver?
While both were great examples of activity generators at night, as a Canadian, I couldn’t help but wonder what to do when the snow falls.
Upon returning home to Vancouver, I walked by Robson Square. In the centre of downtown, surrounded by commercial buildings, this square is largely deserted after five o’clock at night. However, this space is activated with events throughout the summer and is transformed into an ice rink in the winter. Skating takes place both day and night at Robson square with live music, local vendors and tons of people embracing the night and the cold at the same time!
The possibility for night time activity generators are abundant. We need only look at spaces where people feel safe exploring their neighbourhoods both day and night.
Paving paradise? Joni Mitchell's classic lyric to "Big Yellow Taxi" ran through my mind yesterday during research for an upcoming webinar on downtown safety next Wednesday, April 4
It happened during a visit to the U-Village Mall - a lifestyle mall in Seattle where I uncovered an example of Penalosa's maxim: "We can have a city that is very friendly to cars or a city that is very friendly to people. We can't have both."
A few years ago I wrote about Enrique Penalosa, the urban visionary from Bogota, Columbia. He's the former Mayor who helped transform a nightmare downtown during his country's narco-war into a vibrant and safe place. He did that by building for people first and cars last.
The U-Village Mall shows how we can do that in a parking lot. This re-imagined mall sacrifices sprawling lot design that maximizes quantity for a pedestrian friendly design to maximize quality. Playground areas for kids, water features, sidewalks and gardens - the works.
The U-Village Mall ignores large lots in favor of smaller clusters of 100 cars. This reduces the number of parking spaces (to the chagrin of some), but it creates a livable urban village feel (to the joy of everyone else).
Activating public spaces is a key for safety. My prior blogs on parking lot design show design errors of size and shape. Parking lots at the U-Village show how to mix people and cars. I suspect Penalosa would approve.
The webinar is next Wednesday, 3-4pm EST (12-1 PST) sponsored by the International Downtown Association. Their website lists details -IDA Trending Topics #5
If you're going all city, don't shark or get buffed. Don't be a toy!"
That's not gang lingo, it belongs to a much bigger group: Graff writers!
Graffiti existed millenia before hip hop, street gangs, and Banksy. Napoleon's soldiers did it on ancient Egyptian ruins. Mao's hoards created the world's longest to stir China's Communist Revolution. Today high art galleries feature it from Manhattan to London. Academy nominated films glorify it.
The past few months I've photographed an ever-so blurry line between street art and graff. Just consider the quality of design. How far is one design of wall graffiti in Hartford, CT from that of a mural in Victoria, BC?
Graffiti is growing in cities around the world. On a recent trip to Toronto I found bookstores featuring graff history, how-to, and heroes.
Then I found a politically incorrect Mad TV version of taggers. It makes light of something that's not. But it is kind of funny. Enjoy.
On a creativity roll the past few weeks and the ride feels great. So often we hear crime and disorder have deep roots and digging them out strains our patience and resources.
The last few posts - guerilla classrooms, soundscapes, bubble wrap - provide elegantly simple solutions how to activate a street to make it safer. In science the elegant and simple theory is called parsimonious. In neighborhood safety it seems to go hand in hand with creativity.
The video below shows JR, a French street artist who created a new kind of street art. He not only activates the street; he travels to distant, sometimes dangerous, countries to tell the story of the unseen.
This is social action at its most elegant, simple, and creative. Parsimony par excellence.
I just finished the latest edits to the upcoming CPTED Perspective newsletter and there is a fantastic UK article about soundscapes to prevent crime. How creative!
Whenever I hear theories about defensible space I am struck by how shackled we are to obsolete design doctrines. Activating public spaces need not be doctrinaire. Yet everywhere we act otherwise; we treat setbacks like they were written in stone and we keep homeless off park benches with dividers. We light streets up like stadiums and we argue over parallel parking spots, yet provide zero for bicycles.
Creative design means none of those things. Creativity has a quality all its own. Creative design has made appearances in this blog. Consider intersection art, parking lots, tech gizmos, and laneways.
The Montreal swings in the video above are another great example.
When viewed from space, cities look beautiful, exciting and filled with energy. It's easy to forget they even have crime. Those who focus too much on that big picture look for big city solutions with a wide-angle lens.
Close-up, the picture of the city looks very different. Turns out it's the close-up picture with the zoom lens that provides the best opportunities for creating safe places. One example was provided at the ICA CPTED conference by Jim Diers, Seattle's neighborhood guru. His presentation is on-line at the ICA website.
Dead spaces, such as deserted nooks beneath overpasses, are isolated, not maintained, and ideal for drug dealing, robberies, and nefarious crimes. The neighborhood folks in Seattle decided to turn this one into something more interesting and fun.
After a long public dialogue one favorite design was chosen - the underpass troll. It is today among one of the choice tourist spots to view. It is also far safer than it was.
Fine tuned design with collaborative public input can produce beautiful results. Another ingredient for success.
After some serious blogs of late, I thought I'd lighten up a bit. A thought occurs: How do we make the street fun?
One of my favorite answers is fun theory. It's an interesting program by Volkswagen. I've highlighted some of their innovative urban designs last year such as the piano stairway and the deepest garbage bin in the world. This is a fantastic fun way to get people to engage.
The Bottle Bank Arcade is their latest offering.
Check it out.
Watch the Bottle Bank Arcade
Every now and then it is worth looking at something old from a completely new playbook; something that gives life to the concept of the creative city.
A friend sent the below YouTube about a stairway in Sweden...a movement predictor with a message. Or, more accurately, a song! It brought to mind that adage taught in urban design schools (at least the good ones) - sensation is the gateway to experience.
As the creative city folk would no doubt remind us, public places need humor.
Here's one way to do it.
Click for the Swedish Stairway
What kind of imagination do we need to activate communities and support positive street activities? I heard a great example last week while working in Indianapolis.
Community gardens are a thing of the future growing out of our past. Gardens have always been that sort of hobby urban retirees do to pass time. At least that was the image. Even if it were true, it is not so today. Urban gardens are the kind of community asset we can no longer do without. They are sprouting up in cities across North America.
Indianapolis is no exception. One report suggests that Indianapolis needs 300 active community gardens to help feed itself - an interesting project. Locally grown food will not only help reduce our carbon impact, but it will get more neighbors outside their homes interacting with each other in a positive way.
One of the more interesting locations for a community garden is the Pot of Gold Comunity Garden located in the Indianapolis Washington Park North Cemetery.
Community gardens in a cemetery?
Imagination, it seems, is limited by our ability to think outside the box. And thinking outside the box is impossible if you give the box power it doesn't deserve.